There’s so much to do in Paris! Don’t get stuck missing out on some great unique Paris activities
If you’re coming to Paris for the first time, you’ve probably started to do your research. And you should! Paris is a relatively smaller city compared to London or New York, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t packed to the brim with interesting sites to see.
Maybe you’ve asked friends and family who have been here before for advice in addition to Google. You’ve probably heard some suggestions like…
“You HAVE to climb the Eiffel Tower!”
“Go to an expensive restaurant!”
“Don’t miss all of the shopping on the Champs Élysées!”
“The Mona Lisa should definitely be on your list!”
While it’s nice that your loved ones want to help, don’t believe everything they tell you! And, definitely don’t believe everything Google tells you either. Lucky for you, here at Sight Seeker’s Delight, Paris is literally our job! We’ve helped thousands of tourists over the years enjoy the French capital to the fullest.
Brace yourselves, because I’m about to shatter all of your Eiffel-Tower-climbing dreams. Okay…it’s not that serious, and you can obviously chose to listen to me, or ignore my advice, but I’m asking you to take a little leap of faith here.
My top 6 things to avoid in Paris, and what to do instead, coming right up.
1. Eiffel Tower vs Montparnasse Tower
I know, I know. I’m telling you to not climb the Eiffel Tower when you come to Paris. The horror! But, bear with me for a second.
The Eiffel Tower is impressive and beautiful, and it is unanimously the symbol of Paris. I’m not saying that you should avoid it completely, but I don’t think climbing to the top is anything really special.
If you want to get an awesome view of the Tower, there are a few different options for snapping some photos of the landmark. You could go to Trocadero, which has a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River and the gardens that surround it. You could also get out at the metro station École Militaire, and see the Iron Lady and the Champs de Mars from that side.
But, if you want a really breathtaking view of the city, I recommend that you climb to the top of the Montparnasse Tower in the 15th arrondissement. You may recognize it as one of the only (read: the only) skyscraper in the center of the city. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and most Parisians really hate it (I’m right there with them!). So, what’s the best way to admire the Parisian skyline without the giant black tower looming in the background?! Climb up it, of course!
I have captured some of my most favorite pictures of Paris from the top of the Montparnasse Tower. It’s really impressive to go at sunset, or after the sun has already gone down, so that you can see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. That’s right – there is a great perspective of the Iron Lady from the top of the Montparnasse.
You can’t see the Eiffel Tower if you’re inside it (duh!), but from the top of the Montparnasse Tower, you will! Now that will make for a photo you’ll want to share with everyone you know.
Cost: 8.50-18 euros
Address: 33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 9:30am-10:30pm, Friday-Saturday 9:30am-11pm
2. Bateaux Mouches vs Calife Café
Going on a boat cruise on the Seine River is an excellent way to see Paris. Most of the major monuments are situated along the river, so you’ll get to soak in some of the greatest sites! Most boats offer a commentary in various languages as well, so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at.
The most famous boat cruise in Paris is offered by a company called Bateaux Mouches. I don’t want to bad mouth anyone, but I’ve done this ride a few times and I’ve always walking away feeling a bit less than impressed.
Sometimes the headphones to listen to the commentary don’t work, and sometimes there are crowds of really loud people on the boat, meaning you don’t really get to enjoy the ride.
I’ve got a great alternative for you to try called Calife Café. You’ll want to come on an empty stomach, as this boat cruise includes lunch or dinner!
You can expect a full three course meal made with the freshest produce. The cruise lasts for about 2 hours, and you’ll see monuments like the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Musée d’Orsay, Invalides and the Eiffel Tower!
The boat leaves every evening between 7:45pm-8:15pm from the Port des Saints-Pères, which is under the Pont des Arts bridge. Calife Café also offers an option for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays between 12pm-12:15pm.
The meeting point is just opposite the Louvre, and I recommend you book our Keys to the Louvre tour and head to the boat directly!
Cost: 67-108 euros, depending on the meal you choose
Address: Port des Saints-Pères, 75006 Paris
3. Shopping on the Champs Élysées vs shopping in Le Marais
In my opinion, the Champs Élysées is good for 2 things: the final lap of the Tour de France race, and the fireworks show they put on for New Years Eve. And, I watch both on TV from the comfort of my own home!
How can I put this…in recent years, the Champs Élysées has basically transformed into a giant outdoor shopping mall. There are dozens of options to choose from, but you’ll find stores that you can definitely find in The States or in your home country.
I’m talking Nike, the Disney Store, H&M, Zara and the like. Sure, there are the larger luxury stores like Louis Vuitton and Hermes, but the lines to enter are enormous if you haven’t made an appointment beforehand, and said appointments are very hard to come by.
I definitely suggest that you visit the Arc de Triomphe, but other than this famous Parisian monument…the Champs Élysées is a hard pass for me!
Save yourself the hassle and head to Le Marais to shop in some really unique boutiques instead! Here, you’ll find a great selection of vintage stores, French-chic shops and more. There is also the large French department store called BHV, which is always a treat to wander through.
I also love Fleux’, which is a home goods store, and La Belle Hortense, which is a cross between a bookstore and a wine bar! Talk about a dream pairing. There’s a ton of concept stores as well. In a nutshell, there is no shortage of great shopping options in Le Marais!
The easiest way to get to Le Marais is to take the metro line 1 to the station Saint-Paul. If you’re taking a taxi, tell you driver to head to the metro station Saint-Paul.
4. Eat in a tourist trap vs eat at a traditional French restaurant
We have already touched on this subject here on our blog, but I’m going to bring it up again! Mostly because it would be a tragedy to come to Paris and eat bad food. Seriously…it would be like committing a crime!
The French are so serious about their food that UNESCO awarded French cuisine “world intangible heritage” status. Yup. And honestly, it deserves it!
So, how do you avoid a tourist trap in Paris? We’ve got a few tips:
- Stay away from the main attractions,
- Avoid places with waiters shouting at you to come inside because they have the best food in Paris (spoiler alert: they don’t),
- Steer clear of places with a lot of English speakers. Keep your ear out for French!
- Do your research using sites like La Fourchette, Le Fooding and Paris by Mouth.
If you’re out and about and find that you can’t deal with your rumbling tummy any longer, another trick is to look out for special stickers. Keep your eyes peeled for “Michelin” and “Gault & Millau.” You’ve probably heard of Michelin before (that’s where those “Michelin-starred” restaurant designations come from!). Gault & Millau is a newer concept restaurant guide that puts heavy importance on quality of ingredients and a return to fundamental flavors of ingredients.
We’ve got a list of our favorite restaurants up on our site, click here to check it out!
5. See the Mona Lisa vs visit another Paris museum
If you know anything about art history, art in general, or Paris as a whole, you’ve definitely heard of the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Let’s face it, if you’re a human living on planet Earth, you’ve probably heard of this painting!
Yes, it is famous. Yes, it is a masterpiece by a world renowned painter. And, yes, it is located in the most visited museum in the world, the Louvre. But, did you know that it’s only 30×21 inches large?!
Additionally, unless you get to the museum as it opens, or stay until the minute it closes, you’ll find a massive crowd of people in front of the masterpiece. You’ll also see people pushing and shoving their way to the front of the crowd, only to snap a quick selfie (or 2), before pushing their way back.
How can I describe this experience? One word: AWFUL. People are rude, and to be honest you can’t even get that close to the painting to truly admire it. It’s also enclosed in a glass box to protect Ms. Mona from the throngs of people that come to visit her daily.
My advice? Head to the Louvre, but don’t spend too much time trying to get to the Mona Lisa. Or, even better, head to another one of the amazing Parisian museums!
We’ve got a great tour in the Orsay Museum (our Orsay Only the Best tour), and if you’re interested in visiting a different museum with our expert guide, we can most likely design a Custom Private tour for you!
My favorites include L’Orangerie for Monet’s beautiful Water Lily paintings, the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art for a great free museum option and the Picasso Museum in Le Marais. Click the respective links to learn more!
6. Bus tour vs walking tours
Sight Seeker’s Delight is a walking tour company, so I may be biased, but hear me out! In my humble opinion, if you don’t have any mobility issues, walking tours are definitely the way to go.
I’ve already touched on this in a different blog, but walking is the best way to get to know a new city. You’ll find some great off-the-beaten path areas and streets that you’ll never see on a bus. You’ll also get to learn from an expert local guide!
Plus, word on the street is, soon bus tours will be completely banned from Paris anyways! Head to the TOURS page of our website to learn more about all of our different touring options, but here are a few I think you’ll love:
Paris Along the Seine: We would recommend this as the best one to give you a great overall introduction to the city, its monuments, and its history. It is about 4-4.5 hours long and we take a short break to recharge at a fabulous little cafe along our winding river-side route. The Seine tour will allow you to get your bearings in the city and learn some incredible history and anecdotes along the way. This is one of our most popular tours and I assure you, you will see and learn a LOT in a very short time! Flexible start time. 40 €.
Time Travel to Montmartre: We visit the beautiful and quaint neighborhood of Montmartre, where many of the famous artists lived at the end of the 1800s (Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, etc.). During this 2.5 hour tour, we will pass their old apartments and where they worked, and we will let you in on all the interesting stories about life – and death – in Montmartre. We also pop into Sacre Coeur Basilica at the top of the hill. Bring your camera – we see an unforgettable view of the city. Flexible start time. 30 €.
Jewish History of Le Marais: This 3-hour tour is not just for travelers of Jewish faith – it is for everyone (especially if you’re a fan of falafel, since our lunch break is at an Israeli restaurant famous for it)! The ultra-chic Marais district has some of the richest history in the city, and it is the premiere district for the Parisian Jewish population. We will show you the beauty of this area, take you into a synagogue or two (Karen has relationships with several Rabbis in the area), and tell you its stirring history. 11am start time Sunday-Friday. 60 €.
See, told you walking tours are awesome! Trust me on this 😉
Don’t waste your precious Paris time! Follow my advice, and you’re sure to have the trip of a lifetime that you’ve been dreaming of.
Did I leave anything out? Leave a comment below letting me know, I love hearing from my lovely readers!